MBB is aware that girls often regard math classes as daunting. Those classes can be especially difficult during the girls' transition from small primary schools in the mountains to the larger and more competitive high schools in Gros Morne town. To ease "math anxiety," MBB provides weekly after-school math tutoring sessions for its Scholars. In groups of twenty, they practice lessons at the boarding lodge with a skilled math instructor. The extra help boosts the girls' confidence in tackling square roots and other math mysteries. We hope it also boosts their exam scores!
Alice studies engineering on an MBB Scholarship. Here she is (wearing a yellow hard hat) practicing the art of surveying. She's surely one of very few South Sudanese women -- if not the only one --in her field. Why has she chosen engineering? "I want to build up our new country," says Alice. "We need roads and bridges and schools." S.Sudan has only 50 miles of paved road and hardly any bridges. Look at the picture below. To cross this river in a vehicle, you must wait for the water level to recede, then inch across the uncertain riverbed and drive up the precipitously steep bank. On one of my trips to visit MBB project sites, I myself was in a Land Rover that nearly tipped over backwards when climbing this particular riverbank.
In summer when the riverbeds dry up you see the tops of huge trailer trucks embedded sideways in the sand, half-buried metal skeletons unearthed by erosion. Flash floods also claim lives every year, as walls of water roar down from distant mountains, catching people unaware. Alice, we can hardly wait for you to put your engineering skills to work!
An 80:1 ratio. Sound impossible? Shanas makes it look easy. She has 80 lively preschoolers all morning, but no classroom large enough to hold them. No problem, she teaches them beneath a tree on the school grounds. Shanas is a gifted teacher who can hold the attention of squirming children for hours. I've seen her do it, and I marvel. We proudly claim Shanas as an MBB alum. She is one of the first to have graduated from our scholarship program. The fact that she has chosen to return to her alma mater, St Bakhita Girls Primary School in South Sudan, makes it even sweeter. We love you, Shanas!
Mercy Beyond Borders currently has nearly 300 young women on full scholarships to high school or universities. Each of them volunteers monthly in her local community. That's one of MBB's core values: Compassionate Action. Here we see three Haitian scholars visiting a residence for abandoned elderly in the town of Gros Morne. The MBB volunteers interact with the men and women residents, some of whom are disabled, others afflicted by mental illness, others lacking any other place to live. The volunteers sing with them, dance, play dominoes or cards, help them exercise, and most importantly, listen to their stories. One thing leads to another. We're all connected. Joy spreads. Call it the best kind of "Domino Effect."
The scene: Four girls relaxing during school recess. To be more specific, four young girls playing a version of "jacks" without stones or bouncing ball. What's so rare and unusual about that? Let me count the ways: 1. These girls are enrolled in school. It's very rare for girls in South Sudan to be in school. 2. These girls are relaxing. Not hauling water or collecting firewood. Not scrubbing clothes. Not cooking. Not carrying younger siblings. No, these girls are enjoying some "down time" with friends. Back in their villages, you would rarely see a female --even a very young one -- relaxing. 2. These girls are playing; yes, actually playing. If you traveled around S.Sudan, you would think that play is reserved only for boys and men: they wrestle, engage in sports, sit around playing dominoes. Girls work and work and work. MBB delights in supporting girls' education. For girls in S.Sudan being in school means much more than classroom learning. Being in school gives them a chance to be children, to recognize their dignity, to develop into whole persons. And it's wonderful to see them play!